Mount Holds Collaborative Equity in Literacy Conference
By James McVey
March 30th marked the 26th annual Collaborative for Equity in Literacy Learning (CELL) Mount Saint Mary’s College hosted, a tradition going back to 1993. Dr. Jane Gangi, a professor of education at Mount Saint Mary gave a thematically tuned welcome to the keynote speaker, Jacqueline Woodson. This year the Mount had the pleasure of welcoming Jacqueline Woodson. Ms. Woodson began by identifying her platform saying, “My platform is reading=hope x change. I think when we read it changes us. It is important that young people have both mirrors and window books, books where they can see reflections of themselves in the books… where they can see other ways of being in a book.”
What makes her writing stand out from other authors is the emotional authenticity. She uses the emotions that she feels and witnesses in her world as fuel for her works of fiction. An emotional semi-autobiography that carries strong messages of inclusion and positivity are the result. Woodson told the crowd, “When I write I’m usually working on more than one book at a time, and I always read aloud because my writing is very intentional and has to sound a certain way, and the particularity of word choice is perceived when the reader speaks the words aloud page by page, and the evidence of this stacks up.
The school to prison pipeline was addressed, along with an emphasis on teachers ensuring everyone feels welcome in the classroom. The world is evolving and teachers need to evolve with it. Living situations are increasingly diverse and a student should never be looked at differently due to who their primary caregivers are. One method of doing this is as simple as replacing the word “parents” with the word “caregivers”. It is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that everyone has a similar life, but you never know what conditions are going on at home. “I think about how teachers, and I was a teacher once too, we get to set the tone of our classroom . When I write I think about the tone the teachers are setting. Is it a tone where everyone feels welcome to the party?” Jacqueline asks a crowd primarily made up with educators and current teacher candidates.
None of this happened to Woodson accidently, “I’ve known I wanted to be a writer since I was 7 years old.” Her family moved up north as part of the Great Migration which took place from the early 1900s up until the 1970s, where millions of black people left the repressive conditions of the south for northern cities such as: Chicago, New York, and Philadelphia. In hindsight, she said, “I wish they let me talk more, I was always in trouble for talking. They would call them lies, but they were stories. There were teachers who saw me, and that made all the difference.”